MONSTERS IN MY MIND: story notes, part 15 and 17

15. Turning to Stone

Time flees,
and when the sound begins, you’ve run too far
ahead to hear.

A poem about an actual real-life autistic meltdown/catatonia thing that happened. Nor is it the only time I have had catatonia. Catatonia is a Thing.

I went through an unusual number of drafts with this poem. Folks on the poetry forum I was using at the time didn’t seem to get it no matter what I did. (Was it a drug trip? A lot of people seemed very intent on the idea that I was writing about a drug trip.) But they did have many useful suggestions, and they made the poem a stronger beast.

Putting the verses of the poem into first person was a very late development; earlier drafts were more distancing. The refrains in parentheses are also very altered from what they were in the early drafts. I wanted the people around the “stone woman” to be ironically admiring, expecting there to be something magical and powerful about her when in reality it’s just that she can’t move or talk right now. But that version of the lines didn’t connect with anyone. Adding some more realistically harsh external comments made them more powerful. It was also surprisingly painful to do.

The poem’s rhythm, which I rather like, was with it from the beginning.

I eventually worked up the nerve to stop posting drafts on the poetry forum and send it to Stone Telling, where Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan had yet more suggestions for edits (mostly about the enjambment). The published version is up here. Rose has told me that it’s still one of their favorite Stone Telling poems.

17. The Self-Rescuing Princess

Did you expect this: matted hair,
dress in the unsexy kind of tatters,
holes at the elbows and filth in the seams,
fingernails black, face scarred?

In 2013, and in the thick of processing some of my own traumas, I decided that the phrase “self-rescuing princess” made my hackles rise. It’s a common term of fan approval for female characters who don’t wilt around waiting for A Man to rescue them. It made me think thoughts about what it is to be rescued, to be in need of rescue, to have the need for rescue be presupposed but the idea of who is responsible for it to be in question. About the idea that, whatever horror might enter into a person’s life, a Good Person must remain self-sufficient in dealing with it and its aftereffects. (A relative of this idea is that the idea that these horrors are “for a therapist to deal with” and must never under any circumstances become an inconvenience to one’s actual friends.)

The resulting poem says a lot of things that I’m not sure I entirely agree with. Clearly, some part of me did at the time. (One thing I would certainly do differently if I was writing it again is the line that references Wonder Woman. I don’t think I really understood what that character was about at the time.) It’s still a fun rant, though – good enough for the editor of Lakeside Circus in 2014, though, and now good enough for MONSTERS IN MY MIND.

MONSTERS IN MY MIND is available for purchase on Amazon, Kobo, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, and in Autonomous Press’s Shopify store.